UK Woodland Loss Unprecedented

The Woodland Trust claim that an area of ancient woodland the size of Birmingham (100 square miles) has been lost in the last decade. The rate of this loss is said to be comparable to the rate of forest loss in the Amazon.

Keith Kirby, of the British Ecological Society’s Forestry group said: “The pressure on these very valuable woods is great, but there are major restoration programmes taking place. We are encouraging the Forestry Commission and private owners to protect them, but we are aware that planning authorities still take other things into account when deciding on developments,”

Present and future threats to Britain’s ancient woodland include transport development, golf courses, pylons, housing and airport expansion.

The report coincides with plans by the government to purchase and level a wood outside of Weymouth for a motorway bypass. The ancient wood is associated with the writer Thomas Hardy and famed for beautiful bluebell displays.

A variety of species from different groups depend upon ancient woodland, these include: the willow tit, marsh tit, barbastelle bat, Bechstein’s bat, pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly and dormouse. Both the willow and marsh tit as well as the pearl-bordered fritillary are known to be seriously declining, and this report highlights their plight. Changes in woodland management are thought to be linked to these declines too.

Many of the woods that have been lost so far in are in the South east, notably in East Sussex. A third of these woods are threatened by road schemes.

Ed Pomfret of the Woodland Trust said: “It’s up to the public to put a stop to this destruction; we can’t rely on any official body to help us. We need eyes and ears for woodland to help stop ancient woodland destruction on our doorsteps. That’s why the Woodland Trust has launched WoodWatch to provide tools and information for people to find and save threatened woodland in their local areas.”

The Woodland Trust lists woodland locations around the UK that face various threats: